Sunrise on top of the world

Hello! I’m currently at Las Cruces Biological Station in Costa Rica and supposed to be working on my research project here. But I took a break to share this, an account of a couple mornings ago when my friends and I climbed up the observation tower at 5:30 a.m. to watch the sun rise above the rainforest canopy. It’s so beautiful here, I can’t stand it. This is a creative writing exercise inspired both by the observation tower and very much by Delia Owens’ incredible figurative language about nature (I just finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing). I didn’t edit it much, but wanted to share it anyway. Happy 2020.

We emerge from the stairs on the top of the world. Ahead in the east, light brightens the dusky sky. Next door to us, a Cecropia tree bends and waves, its long whorled branches mirroring the dizzying spiral we ascended to get here. My eyes search its leaves for a sloth, but if there is one, it doesn’t reveal itself.

Lollipop palms puncture the horizon. Their naked giraffe-neck trunks stretch vulnerably far above the canopy. I wonder why they grow so tall. Isn’t it enough to be the best by only a little bit? Isn’t it lonely at the top?

As light creeps across the cloud-streaked canvas overhead, birds fill the sky with song. A jewel-like tanager zooms by, feet from my face, crystal-clearly visible for only an instant before blurring away.

In the west I see the glinting buildings of Las Cruces nestled in the rippling mountains. Sunlight oozes down the forested slopes in an inexorable wave, gilding each tree it touches, as if they occupied a latitude 30 degrees north. Here is an elevation gradient that resets each morning. The seasons here don’t hold the same meaning; this forest never bares its branches to a stark winter sky.

My vision pitches downward to the rich brown earth. I feel my center of gravity press against the railing and wobble slightly, dangerously close to the edge. Along the peeling metal rail, dozens of sunlit visitors have scratched their names in rust, making their indelible mark on this place. But I will become a part of the forest in another way. A long reddish hair has come away in my hand, and I extend my fingers to let it go, floating down to the forest where I know its carbon will be endlessly cycled through the world below.